The website Today Christian published a list of 10 questions that “atheists cannot truly and honestly really answer”. Here are my answers :).
1. How did you become an atheist?
Having been taught to think critically, I started noticing contradictions and fallacies during my Religion class when I was very young; however, it was not until I had finished university that I decided to seriously consider the claims for the existence of God.
After several years of careful and very challenging reflection (and countless hours of discussion with a dear friend of mine who was going through the same process), I concluded that it is more likely that there is no God.
2. What happens when we die?
We simply cease to exist. I do not deny that the idea of an afterlife is seductive, but we must be careful not to indulge in wishful thinking, especially with subjects as important as this one.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
If after I die, I find myself face to face with God, I would humbly accept that I was wrong and accept the consequences. However, I would not for a moment feel ashamed for having doubted Him; after all, it would be my God-given reason that led me to that position. I fully agree with Jefferson when he said:
“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
My reason. Given my experience and having read about happiness, I strongly believe that a good life leads to a happy life. I try to be a good person so as to increase my happiness and that of the people around me.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape while good deeds are unrewarded?
I have not once wanted to murder or rape anyone, regardless of whether I believed in God. These are two separate issues, in my opinion. More importantly, we should not need punishment to refrain from doing evil, and we should not refrain from doing good because of a lack of reward. Having ulterior motives for preferring good over evil is not moral at all.
6. If there is no God, how does your life have any meaning?
Meaning is something we can create regardless of whether God exists. My life and my actions matter to me and to the people around me, and therefore they are meaningful to me and to them. In spite of being overall, as Tim Minchin would put it, insignificant lumps of carbon, our ephemeral passing through this world can have a great impact on, and be deeply meaningful to, many people.
7. Where did the universe come from?
We do not know yet and yes, we may never know. While this humble answer may be unsatisfactory for many, I prefer it over saying that God created it for two main reasons: first, we cannot falsify that hypothesis; and, second, it does not really address the underlying issue as we do not know where God came from either (or even if He actually exists).
8. What about miracles? What about all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
Extraordinary events happen more frequently than we think; what some people might consider a miracle might be (and usually is) perfectly well explained without appealing to the supernatural. On the other hand, countless alleged miracles and all sorts of supernatural phenomena have been disproved as we advance our understanding.
As for people’s claims, people make mistakes or intentionally deceive all the time. We should not conclude that something exists (God, angels, fairies, the Loch Ness Monster) simply because someone claims to have seen it. Whereas some of these claims might be worth taking a closer look at, they should only serve as the beginning of a proper investigation, not as sufficient evidence for the corresponding conclusion.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris?
I find Dawkins too abrasive and arrogant; his position seems to be that one is either an atheist or an idiot, a position which I do not share at all. The worst possible way to effectively communicate an idea is to offend or underestimate those who disagree.
I really like the so-called Hitchslap; i.e., the articulate way in which Hitchens neatly and mercilessly destroys a flawed argument or fallacy. I would really love to have met him or at least have attended one of his lectures or debates in person.
As for Harris, even though I do not agree with all of his ideas, I like that he is willing to tackle difficult subjects, such as that of free will or morality. I also like the easy-to-follow language he uses in his books.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
There are several social and psychological reasons why we, as a species, seem to be predisposed to believe in God, none of which are related to whether God actually exists. On the other hand, we should realize that a belief is not necessarily true simply because it is commonly held (e.g., at some point, most people believed the Earth was flat).
Have you considered these questions yourself? What would your answers be?